The Donkey Diet

The Donkey Diet

Donkeys Eating
Photo: Kendra Bond at Peace for Ponies

Ask ten donkey owners how they feed their donkeys and you’ll get ten different answers.

Some search for low sugar hay and dutifully test each new batch, while others just use whatever they can get hold of.

Some happily let their donkeys graze freely all year round, ignoring the cries of fellow donkey owners that all that grass could kill them. Yet, their donkeys are the picture of health.

One thing is clear: every owner, farm, pasture and paddock is different. And, of course, every donkey is different. So, let’s take a broad look at the donkey diet.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a qualified equine nutritionist or veterinarian. The information in this post should only be used in conjunction with professional advice. The correct diet for any individual donkey depends upon a wide range of factors.  


Dolly and friend2


Donkeys love grass. It’s tasty and full of nutrients. Unfortunately, as with so many delicious foods, there’s a downside. In temperate regions such as the UK, cases of laminitis surge in spring among donkeys feeding on young, fast-growing grass that’s full of sugar.

The digestive system, and even the feet, of donkeys are superbly adapted to the hot and arid conditions in which they originated. Give them a rich diet and you’re risking serious metabolic disorders. Leave them out on wet, muddy ground and you’re looking at hoof disease.


Sugar levels in grass are high in spring but they can also be raised when there is early morning dew, when the grass over-grazed, or stressed in periods of drought and when cold sunny weather leads to frost. Levels also depend on the variety of grass and stage of growth.

If you have lush pasture, you may need to restrict grazing all year round. Depending on your set up, this can be done by using other animals to keep the grass down, strip grazing, using dry lots or substituting grass with hay and straw.

Restricted Grazing

Strip grazing is where donkeys are only given access to small areas of grass at a time, with the use of movable electric fencing. You can also incorporate walkways for the donkeys to go down to get to grass, feed or water, thus increasing exercise. This is known as track grazing.

Time-limited grazing can encourage donkeys to gobble down their grass too quickly, while there is some evidence to suggest that the more time horses spend out at pasture, the less they eat per hour of grazing. If limited grazing time is the only practical option, morning is best as sugar levels in grass increase throughout the day.

If you’re lucky enough to have several acres for your donkeys to run around in, you may find that they spend more time exercising, playing and exploring a variety of plants and browse, and less time grazing.

Donkeys can certainly be out more on arid land. In areas where the grass grows well, owners usually restrict grazing and replace some or all of their donkeys’ diet with dried forage.

The amount donkeys can safely graze also depends on the health, condition and metabolism of each individual, which explains why there is such variation in practices.

Some owners limit grazing to fifteen minutes or half an hour each day, some an hour, or two or three. Some opt for every other day or only at the weekend. Some use a dry lot in spring and grazing in summer and some don’t dare allow any grazing at all as their donkeys only have to look at a blade of grass to gain five pounds.

Monitoring your donkeys’ weight and condition is the best way to spot trouble and you can then adjust grazing accordingly. For Heart Girth Measurements and Body Condition Checks, see Donkey Check-Ups!

Handy Tip

Giving your donkeys a cuddle every day and feeling along their necks and backs for any developing fat pockets is a great way to check that they’re not gaining weight!

Dry Lots

If your pasture is rich, it’s useful to have a dry area or paddock where there is very little or no grass growing. Your donkeys can use this space when you want to limit grazing or rest the grass, or they may be on it all the time.

Donkeys need to trickle feed throughout the day and periods of hunger can lead to hyperlipaemia, so ideally, they will have access to free-choice straw.

When donkeys are kept on small paddocks and dry lots, it helps to provide plenty of enrichment objects to keep them entertained, as well as safe logs, shrubs and branches for them to munch on.

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barley straw
Barley Straw Photo: James Kennedy


Many donkey owners think of straw as bedding for animals and don’t like the idea of feeding it. However, research has shown that clean, fresh barley straw is an ideal feed for donkeys being high in fibre and low in protein, sugar and starch.

Ideal forage for donkeys is in the range of:

  • 5-10% protein (and no more than 12%)
  • 5% NSC (Non-Structural Carbohydrates – sugar & starch)
  • 7-9 MJ/kg DE (Digestible Energy – usable energy)

Barley straw matches this profile very well, often falling within 4-7% protein, 1-4% sugar and 5-7 MJ/kg DE, meaning that donkeys can nibble on it all day without gaining weight. Levels of sugar and starch can vary though, so consider testing your supply. 

The Donkey Sanctuary recommends feeding 75% barley straw in summer and 50% in winter, with hay or restricted grazing making up the balance. This may vary depending on the condition of the donkey and straw must only be fed to donkeys with good teeth.

Donkeys actually love fibre and require plenty of it. Providing straw fulfils this need and, in turn, can prevent them munching on poisonous plants, or your trees and fence posts! Any wasted straw can be used as bedding and hay can be added to the straw in winter.

However, barley straw is not available everywhere. Wheat straw is a good second choice, with even lower nutritional value than barley straw but it requires even more chewing (so not for young donkeys or those with poor teeth). Oat straw is easier to digest but tends to be higher in calories. The next best option is mature grass hay.

Some people worry that feeding straw can lead to colic, although there are numerous causes. Read more about Colic in Donkeys.

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donkey feed
Hay Harvest, Ontario


Common varieties that suit donkeys include Meadow Hay and Seed Hay such as Timothy, Bermuda, Orchard, Brome and Bluegrass.

These usually range from 6-10% protein and 7-18% NSC. In Australia, Rhodes is a common grass for equines, with 9-15% protein and an average of 10 MJ/kg DE.

Levels of protein, sugar and starch in hay vary depending on several factors, including species and growth stage at the point of cutting. The more mature the hay is when it’s cut, the lower the protein level will be; the longer it’s dried in the field, the lower NSC levels will be.

Like straw, fibrous hay requires a good set of teeth and lots of chewing, so if your donkey has poor dentition, you may need to look at replacing some or all of their hay with a special high-fibre feed.


Alfalfa is a legume and higher in protein than grass. Levels range from 15-22% protein and 8-14% NSC, making it too rich for donkeys. However, in some areas of the USA, it’s the only hay available. If this is the case, go for the stemmiest and lowest protein you can get and mix with straw if possible.

Growing, working or underweight donkeys and lactating or late stage pregnant jennets can sometimes benefit from alfalfa, usually fed in small amounts alongside a lower-protein grass hay.

Which Cut?

Cool season grasses like Timothy and Orchard mature in late spring. The first cut is usually stemmy, fibrous, low in protein and good for donkeys. Second cuts tend to be leafier, softer and higher in protein.

Warm season grasses like Brome and Bermuda mature later, so a late first cut or second cut may be better, with more stems than leaves.

The main consideration is not so much when it’s cut but how mature the plant is at the point of cutting. Regardless of the cut, levels of sugar and protein will vary. Testing is the only way to be sure.


Haylage is cut in the same way as hay but dried for less time (dry matter content is around 70-80% compared with 85-95% for hay).

Straight after baling, haylage is wrapped in several layers of plastic, creating an anaerobic environment which allows the grass to ferment. This breaks down some of the sugars, meaning that haylage can actually be lower in sugar than hay.

The fermentation process also results in an increase in acidity whereby the pH should drop to around pH 5, making it harder for harmful bacteria and fungi to grow. Haylage can be a good option for donkeys but it needs to be made well and is not available everywhere.

Hay Quality

While hay with low levels of nutrients suits donkeys well, it does need to be clean, dry and free of dust. It should be largely free of weeds, although the odd thistle won’t hurt.

Never feed freshly cut hay. It should be cut dry and stored for a least two months before feeding. If you’re buying from a grower, it may already be cured. Dry hay is flaky and not heavy or stuck together. Damp or mouldy hay is not safe to feed and should be discarded.

Storing after two months allows further time for nutrient levels to go down. Depending on how much space you have, hay can be stored for up to a year. Another way to reduce the sugar and starch content of hay is to soak it before feeding.

Ragwort can be a problem in hay. It’s highly poisonous and donkeys are unlikely to notice it dried and mixed in with their feed. Hopefully, your supplier will ensure their hay is ragwort-free.

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feed for donkeys
Photo: Kendra Bond at Peace for Ponies

How Much to Feed

Donkeys require around 1.5-1.8% of their body weight in dry matter per day. That’s the total amount of dry matter in grass, hay, straw and chaff (before soaking), which amounts to a minimum of:

  • 1.5kg per day for a 100kg miniature
  • 2-3kg per day for a 180kg standard donkey
  • 5-6kg per day for a 400kg mammoth

Dry Matter

The percentage of dry matter in hay and straw (about 90%) is much higher than in grass (as low as 20%), so even if your donkeys are grazing for some of the day, they will still need plenty of dry forage.

It’s difficult to know how much moisture is in grass as it ranges from 50-80%, depending on the weather, stage of growth and other factors.

It’s also hard to know how much your donkey is eating per hour of grazing as this also varies. For this reason (and because the amount in question is often quite small), grass tends not to be included when calculating the amount of dry matter required.

If your donkeys are out on good quality pasture for much of the day, you can seek advice from a feed company or The Donkey Sanctuary on how to estimate their likely dry matter intake from grazing and adjust their dry forage accordingly.

Healthy donkeys who are not overweight might eat as much as 2% of their bodyweight per day, with free-choice barley straw and limited grazing or grass hay. An overweight donkey should still eat 1.5% of their bodyweight in dry matter, it just needs to be low in calories.

More hay is usually fed in winter, when there is less nutrition in the grass and donkeys use up more energy keeping warm.

Making it Last

Donkeys naturally forage for 10-18 hours a day, eating little and often. They need to keep their digestive systems moving, so the challenge is to spread their feed out across the day.

Straw can be fed free-choice (ad-lib) whereas hay is usually rationed. If dry forage makes up the bulk of the diet and you’re splitting it into portions, aim for at least two feeds per day, and three or four if possible.

Slow feeders can help to eke meals out even further, so that they always have something to nibble on without actually eating too much.

slow feeders for donkeys
Parallax Hay Play

Slow Feeders

Hay nets and other devices can more than double feeding time (and reduce wastage) and many donkey owners swear by them. Donkeys can get themselves tangled up in empty nets though so it’s best to hang them high enough that they can’t get their feet caught (but at a comfortable eating height) using a quick-release knot, and remove or refill them once empty.

Nets with 1″ holes work well for donkeys and come in all shapes and sizes, to fit a single flake right up to large round or square bales. Some find webbed bags more durable, while hay pillows allow feeding at ground level. Then there are standing devices such as the Eazigrazer or Hay Saver and slow feeder toys like the Hay Play.

For suppliers of slow feeders worldwide, see Donkey Equipment.

How Many Flakes?

Bales of hay vary in density and flakes are not all the same size. It will depend on the type of hay and harvesting method used.

The only way to be sure is to weigh your portions. If you’re dealing with an overweight donkey, this may really be necessary.

Handy Tip

To weigh your hay, stand on some bathroom scales holding nothing and then a few different flakes to work out the average weight of your flakes!

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hay testing for donkeys
Photo: The Natural

Forage Testing

Not everyone has their forage tested but it’s possible to find out the levels of protein, starch, sugar, fibre, moisture, vitamins, minerals and amino acids in your grass, straw and hay.

In an ideal world, your supplier will do the basic tests for you. Otherwise, you can buy or borrow a hay probe and send samples off for analysis. Your local agronomist or county extension agent can give you a list of local testing labs.

In terms of weight control, the main levels to look at are:

  • Protein
  • NSC (Non-Structural Carbohydrates – sugar and starch)
  • DE (Digestible Energy)

Ideal forage for donkeys is around 5-10% protein (and no more than 12%), less than 10% NSC (the lower the better) and 7-9 MJ/kg DE.

Whether you know the levels of your forage or not, the most important test is to continually monitor your donkeys’ weight, condition score and eating habits as well as organising regular dental checks with a qualified person and following a worming regime.

Handy Tip

Taking pictures of your donkey every week or two is a good way to monitor changes in their condition as these can be hard to notice day-to-day. 

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donkey feeds
Photo: Saracen Horse Feeds


Most healthy donkeys don’t require special high-fibre feeds as they get the fibre and nutrients they need from their forage and equine supplements. Donkeys with higher energy requirements or more specialised dietary needs may require a complete change of diet or supplementary feeding.

If your donkey does require supplementary feeding, choose low protein, starch and sugar, non-molassed and grain-free versions. Products designed specifically for donkeys, or for laminitis-prone / good-doer / easy-keeper horses are best.

Below is a selection of different feeds currently on the market. Other products are available!

Forage Balancers

Donkeys on restricted grazing or simply needing a vitamin and mineral supplement, can benefit from a forage balancer.

Balancers come in pellet, cube or fibre blend form. Those with low feeding rates are ideal, so that you can provide sufficient nutrients without adding too many calories to the diet.

UK: TopSpec Donkey Forage Balancer (11.5% protein, 6.5% starch, 8.5% DE) is a pelleted balancer with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and prebiotics. Feeding rate: 100g per 100kg of bodyweight.

USA: Triple Crown Lite (12% protein, 9.3% NSC) is a pelleted balancer. Feeding rate: approx. 200g per 100kg bodyweight.

Donkeys needing extra energy and nutrition may benefit from a higher protein balancer, which should be fed in rationed amounts under careful monitoring and advisement from your vet.


Older donkeys with poor dentition can struggle to chew well enough to get sufficient fibre from forage. Chaff products, made from chopped up hay or straw, are soft feeds that are easier to pick up and digest than long fibres.

UK: TopSpec TopChop Zero (4% protein, 1% starch, 4 MJ/kg DE) is a blend of chopped oat straw with added apple and mint flavouring.

Chaff can be mixed with a balancer to make a partial or complete hay replacer. For an even softer feed you can soak high-fibre cubes.

High Fibre Cubes

UK: Saracen Donkey Diet (9.5% protein, 12% starch, 10.9% DE) is a fortified high-fibre cube that can be soaked into a soft and palatable mash. It can make up to 25% of the total forage for older donkeys, working or lactating donkeys, and those that are difficult to keep condition on.

USA: Triple Crown Timothy Balance Cubes (8% protein, 1% starch, 10% NSC) is a fortified soakable cube, which, if necessary, can be used as a total hay replacer.

In addition to vitamins and minerals, these both contain amino acids and prebiotics which can help when building up the weight of an underweight donkey.

Another easy-to-digest fibre is beet pulp, made from dried sugar beet after the sugar has been removed. It can be soaked into a sloppy mash.

Beet Pulp

UK: Spillers Speedi-Beet (9% protein, 12 MJ/kg DE) is a quick-soaking, non-molassed beet pulp.

USA: Standlee Premium Beet Pulp Pellets (7.5% protein, 7% sugar) is a non-molassed beet pulp that requires soaking for 15-30 minutes.

Beet pulp must be soaked and is mainly used to tempt old or sick donkeys to eat, or as a carrier for supplements. On its own, it is not suitable as a complete hay replacer.

Donkeys with very poor dentition, metabolic disease or those prone to laminitis may require a complete feed.

Complete Feeds

UK: MolliChaff Donkey (5.5-6.5% protein, 2.5% starch, 6.3-7.2% sugar) contains dried grass, fibre pellets, oat straw and a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals. It can make up the entire feed. If unwanted weight gain occurs, switch to a lower calorie chaff  plus a balancer to make a complete diet.

USA: Triple Crown Safe Starch Forage (11% protein, 7.8% NSC) is fortified with essential vitamins, minerals, probiotics and amino acids and is a grain and molasses-free, low-starch complete hay replacer.

By definition, high-fibre feeds, chaffs and cubes are easier to eat and require less chewing time than hay and straw. Always check the label as soaking may be required to slow down feeding and reduce the risk of choke, or to avoid swelling in the intestine after eating.

Handy Tip

Placing a mineral block (as long as it has no sharp edges) or a kid’s football (large enough not to be accidentally eaten, but not so big it makes feeding impossible) into a bucket of feed can slow down eating. 

Many feed companies have nutrient levels and feeding guidelines on their websites, and staff you can phone or email for advice. For links to feed suppliers and products, see Donkey Feed.

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donkeys water
Photo: Our Tiny Farm in Western NC


Donkeys are very fussy about their water. It needs to be clean, which involves scrubbing troughs out regularly, and it can’t be too cold. In winter, this may mean bringing out lukewarm water or using a water heating system.

It is normal for donkeys to be suspicious of any new supply but once they are sure there are no crocodiles lurking, they’ll get used to it!

Clean, palatable water is essential for the health of a donkey and drinking also reduces the risk of colic, especially if dry feed makes up a large proportion of the diet. Keep an eye on your donkey’s water intake and provide more than one trough or bucket if you have room.

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donkey feed
Photo: Kendra Bond at Peace for Ponies


All donkeys need a vitamin and mineral supplement, even those with regular access to pasture. Major minerals are present in forage but levels vary. Grass may not contain adequate calcium, phosphorus, sodium, chloride, copper and zinc. Hay and straw even less so.

Always use an equine-specific product. Mineral supplements designed for cattle, sheep and other animals are not safe for donkeys. Likewise, some designed for equines are not safe for other animals.

Essential Major Minerals:

  • Calcium & Phosphorus – bone growth and repair
  • Magnesium – metabolism and calming
  • Sodium & Chloride (salt) – electrolyte balance
  • Potassium – muscle function
  • Sulphur – skin and hoof condition

Essential Trace Minerals (required in small amounts):

  • Zinc – enzyme function
  • Copper – healthy bones and joints
  • Manganese – metabolism and bone formation
  • Iodine – thyroid
  • Selenium – muscle development
  • Cobalt – Vitamin B12 production
  • Iron – transportation of oxygen in the blood*

*Donkeys rarely need iron supplementation and too much can be harmful. For this reason, some equine supplements are iron-free. Unless your donkey is suffering from severe blood loss, or your vet advises otherwise, supplements with little or no iron are fine.

There are supplements designed to make up for normal deficiencies in forage and others that target specific problems. The right one for your donkeys will depend on their diet, health, age and condition.

Where you live may also be a factor. To find out if the soil in your region is deficient in any particular minerals, ask your county extension agent, local agronomist or forage testing lab.

Supplements come in various forms including blocks, powders, liquids, pellets, pastes, fortified high-fibre feeds and forage balancers. Depending on the format, they can be offered free-choice, where the donkeys just take what they need, or fed in rationed daily amounts.

Mineral Licks and Blocks

Mineral licks and blocks are designed to be kept in stables or even outside so that donkeys can lick them whenever they like.

To make them more tempting, some licks are full of molasses and are liable to be gobbled up far too quickly. Some donkeys will even try to eat the plastic container! Low sugar or sugar-free versions, with natural flavourings, are much better for donkeys.

UK: Rockies Baby Pure Salt Licks are made from pure Cheshire salt. Rockies Flavoured Health Licks contain minerals, trace elements and only 1% sugar, so they can be fed free-choice.

USA: SweetPro EquiLix is a non-molassed vitamin and mineral supplement that includes prebiotics and digestive aids.

Loose Minerals

As it can be difficult to monitor consumption of licks and blocks, some people prefer to feed a rationed amount of supplement in powder, granule or pellet form. This way, you know your donkeys are getting the right quantity.

UK: Dengie Leisure Vits & Mins is a powdered supplement containing a broad spectrum of vitamins, minerals, probiotics and amino acids, with no sugar (and no iron).

USA: California Trace is a pelleted non-iron supplement containing vitamins, minerals and probiotics. Purina Free Balance 12:12 contains vitamins and minerals including iron and comes in block or granular form.

Handy Tip

Supplements can be easier to feed mixed with a handful of chaff, dry or dampened. This can slow down feeding (and prevent choke).  

Even when supplements contain sodium and chloride, it’s advisable to also have a salt lick or granules available free-choice in the field or stable. When introducing this for the first time, monitoring is advised to prevent overconsumption. After a few days, donkeys usually calm down and just take what they need.

Dried forages are more likely than grass to be lacking in vitamins. The longer hay is stored for, the fewer nutrients it will have, such as Vitamin A and E.

Fat Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin A – growth and development
  • Vitamin D – bones and immune system
  • Vitamin E – skin, tissues, antioxidant
  • Vitamin K – blood clotting

Water Soluble Vitamins:

  • Vitamin C (Ascorbic acid) – immune system, wound healing, teeth and bones, antioxidant

B-Complex Vitamins:

  • B1 (Thiamine) – food processing and stress prevention
  • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) – energy production and growth
  • Vitamin B3 (Niacin) – energy metabolism
  • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic Acid) – energy production
  • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) – nervous system, metabolism
  • Vitamin B7 (Biotin) – coat and hooves
  • Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) – red blood cell production
  • Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin) – metabolism and red blood cell production

Amino Acids

Amino acids are the building blocks of protein and are essential for the health of vital organs, bones, muscles, tissue, enzymes, blood, skin, hair, hooves and eyes.

Wild donkeys living on browse, grasses, plants, herbs, flowers, grains and legumes would get sufficient amino acids. For domestic donkeys on limited grazing or a hay and straw only diet, a forage balancer containing beet pulp, soya or linseed / flaxseed may be beneficial.

Essential amino acids that donkeys need from their diet:

  • Lysine – metabolism, nervous system, immune function
  • Methionine – hooves, skin and hair
  • Threonine – digestive tract
  • Phenylalanine – pain relief, brain function, mood
  • Valine – muscle coordination, neural and mental function
  • Tryptophan – mood stabilizer, blood clotting
  • Isoleucine – haemoglobin, nervous system
  • Leucine – muscle health
  • Histidine – production of red and white blood cells
  • Arginine – insulin and growth hormone production, blood flow

Digestive supplements for equines usually contain lysine, methionine or threonine as these are most commonly lacking in forage.


Probiotics are living microorganisms, such as bacteria and yeast, which help break down fibrous material and produce fatty acids that provide energy. Mostly these live and function in the intestinal tract without the need for supplementation but medication, stress or sudden changes in feed can upset their normal balance.

In horse supplements, common probiotics include:

  • Enterococcus faecium
  • Lactobacillus acidophilus
  • Lactobacillus casei
  • Lactobacillus plantarum
  • Saccharomyces boulardii


Prebiotics are substances that feed probiotic organisms in the intestinal tract, improving gut health. Ingredients such as beet pulp, yea-sacc, flax and yeast contain prebiotics.

Typical prebiotics in equine supplements include:

  • FOS (fructooligosaccharides)
  • XOS (xylooligosaccharides)
  • Polydextrose
  • MOS (mannan-oligosaccharides)
  • GOS (galactooligosaccharides)
  • Pectin – treatment and prevention of gastric ulcers
  • Psyllium – dietary fibre

Prebiotic and probiotic supplements are sometimes fed to underweight donkeys, laminitic donkeys and even healthy donkeys. However, research is ongoing into exactly which ones are naturally present in the donkey’s gut and when they should be supplemented.

Always seek advice from your vet or a qualified equine nutritionist as over feeding certain supplements can be harmful. It’s always a good idea to let your vet know what supplements you’re feeding your donkey anyway.

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2014 August donkeys with blue ball
Photo: Our Tiny Farm in Western NC

Example Diets

Example 1

Donkey: 5 years old, 150kg (ideal weight), healthy, good teeth:  

  • Limited grazing or hay: 0.5-0.75kg (25% of diet) in spring, summer and autumn, 1-1.5kg (50% of diet) in winter.
  • Free-choice barley straw (2-3kg per day)
  • UK: 150g TopSpec Donkey Forage Balancer per day, fed on its own or mixed with a handful of TopSpec TopChop Zero. No further supplement required.
  • USA: 300g Triple Crown Lite per day fed on its own or with a handful of soaked Triple Crown Timothy Balance Cubes. No further supplement required.
  • Salt block or granules
  • Constant supply of water

Example 2

Donkey: 20 years old, 150kg (ideal weight), poor dentition:  

  • Limited grazing (if available)
  • No straw or hay
  • UK: 2.25-3kg TopSpec TopChop Zero per day, fed free-choice and slightly dampened, plus 150g TopSpec Donkey Forage Balancer per day, soaked if necessary. No further supplement required.
  • USA: 2.25-3kg Triple Crown Naturals Timothy Hay Cubes, soaked and split into three or four feeds per day. No further supplement required.
  • Salt block or granules
  • Constant supply of water

Example 3

Donkey: 30 years old, 150kg (underweight), poor dentition (always discuss feeding an elderly, underweight or overweight donkey with your vet):

  • Limited grazing (if available)
  • No straw or hay
  • UK: 2.25-3kg MolliChaff Donkey fed free-choice or several times a day, 0.5kg Saracen Donkey Diet, soaked and split into two feeds per day and 150g TopSpec Comprehensive Balancer per day. Monitor condition score. If gaining sufficient weight, reduce the amount of Donkey Diet.
  • USA: 2.25-3kg Triple Crown Safe Starch Forage per day, fed free-choice or split into three or four feeds per day. Soak in lukewarm water if still not soft enough. No further supplement required. Monitor and adjust accordingly.
  • Salt block or granules
  • Constant supply of water

These are just examples. To work out the right diet for your individual donkey, you’ll need to take into account their age, history, health, condition, metabolism, activity level, dental health and the type and amount of pasture they have access to.

Any changes to your donkey’s diet should be made gradually over a week or two. For advice on the best feed for your donkey as well as a suitable worming regime, regular dental checks, vaccinations and general health, ALWAYS speak to your vet.

For free advice and expertise on all aspects of donkey feed and care, you can contact The Donkey Sanctuary.

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Charlie – Only Donkeys Mascot, Foghorn Farm Donkey Training

Special thanks to:

Nikki Bell at The Donkey Sanctuary, Claudia at Raystede Centre for Animal Welfare, Heidi at Beach Farm Suffolk, Wilderness Expeditions Australia, Pete Melling at Rockies, Steph at Saracen Horse Feeds, Ben Swift, and the amazing Only Donkeys Facebook group.

Related Pages:

Donkey Feed

Donkey Care

Donkey Equipment

What Treats Can I Give My Donkeys?

Safe Plants for Donkeys

Natural Remedies

Donkey Vets, Farriers & Dentists


What to Feed Your Donkeys The Donkey Sanctuary

Feeding Donkeys TopSpec / Dr. Faith Burden, The Donkey Santuary 

Amazing Minerals Karen Briggs,

Amino Acids in the Equine Diet The Equine Nutrition Nerd

Probiotics and Prebiotics for Horses Dr. Kellon,

Forage Analysis – Understanding Dry Matter Forage Plus

How & Where to Test Your Horse’s Hay and Interpret Results Hay Pillow

Protein – What are the Best Sources? Juliet M. Getty, Ph.D. Getty Equine Nutrition

Picking hay for sugar/starch sensitive horses Kentucky Performance Products

All Hay Is Not Equal Hobby Farms

Best Hay To Feed Your Horses Sweetwater Nutrition

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Please note: Donkey Wise does not endorse any of the products mentioned in this article. For help with the correct diet for your individual donkeys, please consult a qualified veterinarian or equine nutritionist. The information above is intended only as a basic guide and not a substitute for professional advice.

Copyright 2018 Amy Swift

4 thoughts on “The Donkey Diet

    1. Thanks for your question Nicola. As I outline in the article, wheat straw is a good second choice, with even lower nutritional value than barley straw but it requires even more chewing (so not for young donkeys or those with poor teeth). Oat straw is easier to digest but tends to be higher in calories. The next best option is mature grass hay. Please note – I am not an expert in donkey nutrition and the right diet for each individual donkey will depend on a variety of factors, including their age and health. For free, expert, tailor-made advice on what to feed your particular donkeys, given what you can find your area, I would contact Peaceful Valley Donkey Rescue, or The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK. Best of luck, Amy.


  1. That was an awsome post I read the one for feed and I loved it. I was wondering what you feed your donkeys because I am thinking about getting some and I can’t seem to find the right one.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Britney, thank you! I don’t keep donkeys myself, I have only worked with them and helped look after them. With regards to advising you on the right diet for your donkeys, that depends on a range of factors, including their age, body condition, health etc etc. My article is intended only a guide / general introduction and I wouldn’t want to tell you the wrong thing. Plus, I am not an expert, or qualified in donkey nutrition, I just did a lot of research at the time of writing this article! However, I would recommend contacting The Donkey Sanctuary in the UK. They offer free, expert advice to all donkey owners and they will be able to give you suggestions for your particular donkeys, and advice on how to introduce any dietary changes. Very best of luck and let us know how you get on.


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